SDCC 2011: A Spectacular 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Panel

Friday, 22 July 2011 19:44 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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SDCC 2011: A Spectacular 'The Amazing Spider-Man' Panel

Sony's Friday panel was, if not the single most anticipated panel event of the of the San Diego Comic-Con, then certainly right near the top of the list.  While Sony's time in Hall H included panels promoting Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, 30 Minutes or Less, and Total Recall, the real source of the excitement was simple: The Amazing Spider-Man.  Earlier this week, Sony debuted the first teaser trailer for the franchise reboot of Marvel's most popular hero, and the reaction was solid, but certainly not ecstatic.  Going into this panel, the studio and filmmakers had something to prove.  And prove something they did, unveiling a clip reel and a first look at The Lizard that gave a real sense of the tone, style, and just what movie is trying to accomplish.

On hand for the event were director Marc Webb, producers Avi Arad and Matthew Tolmach, along with rebooted Spidey Andrew Garfield and new Gwen Stacy Emma Stone.

Before anybody hit the stage, though, the panel started off with a 3D presentation of the teaser trailer.  Actually, it was a slightly different version, featuring about four new shots not included in the trailer with which you're no doubt familiar.  These shots detailed Peter Parker's construction and testing of his mechanical web shooters, as well as one quick, dark shot of Spider-Man swinging through New York at night.

Immediately after the trailer, it appeared that an overzealous fan in a cheap Spider-Man costume had commandeered the Q & A microphone, disrupted the about-to-commence panel.  Of course, it was all part of the show, and this "fan" was, in fact, Andrew Garfield.  After tearing off his mask, the British-born actor proceeded to read a heartfelt letter about the character that was unexpectedly earnest.  Many actors will recite the same familiar platitudes about a beloved property, but Garfield seemed utterly genuine in his lifelong affection for the Web Slinger.

With the panel assembled, Marc Webb introduced a clip reel, with the caveat that principal photography wrapped mere weeks ago, so the footage was nowhere near finished.  While the film was shot in 3D, the reel was in 2D with temp music (a score by Thomas Newman, Coldplay's cover of "Kingdom Come", The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man") and incomplete or nonexistent visual effects such as wires and green screens in need of removal.  Nonetheless, the look at the film would reassure most worried arachnid-enthusiasts.

The first material is very much high school Peter, setting up his social and home lives.  The first full scene involves Uncle Ben having to attend a disciplinary meeting after a superpowered Pete puts a hurting on a on a bully we presume is Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka).  Martin Sheen conveys a huge amount of not just authority as Ben, but also a warmth.  That scene segues straight into one between Peter and Gwen.  On stage, Garfield and Emma Stone shared an obvious chemistry, which translated directly to what we saw onscreen.  The dialogue is thoroughly high school (but not in bad way) and the attraction between these two characters is immediately evident.

Throughout that business, Peter has a skateboard strapped to his backpack and later, we see his affection for his board in a subway action scene with him facing off against some nameless thugs.  Additionally, it's worth noting that Peter and Gwen's high school is a science-specific sort of magnet school.  This fits in with Stacy being an intern or assistant at Oscorp, where Peter's late father was employed.

There's a lot of funny business in which Peter fails utterly to adjust to his newfound super-strength, decimating his bathroom while trying to simply brush his teeth.  We see more of Peter developing the webshooters, as well as the production's more practical approach to web-slinging which, even with visible wire work, was very cool.  All of the action involving spidery action was most impressive.  Physically this Spider-Man is still distinctly Spidey, but in a way that feels very different from Sam Raimi's take on visual effects and stuntwork.

While the trailer played up an angsty, dour side to the story, this footage made it very clear that Garfield's Spider-Man is indeed a smartass who doesn't know quite when to shut his mouth.  This was most evident in a scene where a carjacker sat down in a driver's seat to discover a suited-up superhero in the backseat.  The webhead toys with the criminal mockingly and has fun with his webshooters, conveying  childish delight in his abilities.

That's not to say there's no drama, though.  Denis Leary plays Gwen's dad, Captain George Stacy, and the antagonism between Spider-Man and the police comes up repeatedly, with the NYPD displaying a resolute impatience with Spidey's antics, manifesting itself in some serious automatic weapons fire and the like.  It also looked like his crime-fighting lifestyle takes a toll on Peter, and not just because he looks to get thoroughly beaten up later in the film.  Also included was a scene in which Aunt May, played by Sally Field, pleads with a bruised Peter to explain where is all the time and what he's doing with his life.

After that clip package effectively brought the house down, the panel discussed Webb's on-set use of music before it was noted that nowhere in all that footage did we see a villain.  After joking that the film will not include any bad guy, Webb brought Rhys Ifans out on stage and played another batch of clips all about Dr. Curt Connors.

As the amputee lectures Peter's class and takes a shine to the obviously bright Parker, the clips introduce Connors' goal to regrow his right arm through animal DNA research.  It's also worth noting that Ifans maintains his British accent in character.

Connors' desire to make his body complete again is established with a shot of him staring at the reflection of his left arm as though it were his right.  He then takes a serum from the high-tech Oscorp lab and injects himself in his apparently secret, sewer-adjacent personal laboratory.  His treatments are effective, with a fresh new arm emerging, but things go south as the limb turns scaly and Connors goes a little nuts.  At this point, two girls at Peter's high school are huddled in a bathroom stall, preparing to burn an ex-boyfriend's picture when suddenly the toilet begins bubbling.  They flee, just as the full-blown Lizard tears through the floor.  The girls cower, and The Lizard sniffs them threateningly, his hugely suggestive tongue tasting the air.

The look of The Lizard forgoes the alligator-style snout and instead goes for a blunt, noseless face that is apparently reminiscent of Steve Ditko's original design for the character.  The face reminded me very much of Killer Croc, from Batman's stable of baddies, but with a tail and more reptilian body.

The Q & A that followed was lighthearted and enjoyable, affording Webb and Garfield in particular a chance to show their grasp of the character and material. This included Webb addressing a fan's thoughts on the costume, explaining that the costume was designed for Garfield's skinnier more lithe style.

By including a superlative in the title, The Amazing Spider-Man may very well be setting itself up for reviews that deem it less-than amazing, but the footage we saw tonight in Hall H suggests that the film could live up to its title.  We'll see for certain on July 3, 2012.

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